Saturday, January 31, 2009

West African Calabash Calendars

Mande calendrics are the result of a combination climatic, social andastronomical factors. The moon, seasons and stars are used for reckoning time. The major star studied by the Mande is Sirius.

Mats play an important role in Mande calculations. The mat and mat motifs play an important role in Mayan society as well.

If you look at this calabash you will notice that in the center of the calabash we have a figure that resembles the Kanaga sign. It also very interesting that this Kanaga figure also includes a mat constituting the central design in the figure.

The characters on this calabash are explained by Mande cosmology. We see the following characters on this almanac.

1. 2 lizards pointing out the four directions (North, South, East and West) plus the mat in the center of the four directions. These lizard figures probably represent the world.

2. Antelope (deer)

3. 7 circles or the Pleides

4. butterfly

5. bow/ double sword

6. grain/tree

7. 2 people representing humanity and the headrest denoting royalty in African societies

8. Crescent Moon & star (Venus?)

9. heart or ace of club figure

10. rabbit/hare

11. crocodile & snake

12. Crane

13. Calabash or bowl

These figures on the Calabash are ritual emblems associated with Malinke-Bambara.The Malinke-Bambara recognized the Sirius system in their cosmology.

In relation to the Lizard in facing upward we see the calabash or bowl on the right hand side. This calabash may represent the water bowl of Faro, the leading god of the Bambara.
On the left hand side of this Lizard we see the seven circles, which are believed to have represented the seven stars of the Pleides. Among the Malinke-Bambara and other West African people the Pleides was a marker of the growing season.
The second Lizard is facing left. Above the right arm we see the seven stars of the Pleides.
Below the right are we see the double sword which may represent Orion’s sword. Orion’s sword is that region of the sky below Orion’s belt that includes the Orion Nebula. It is interesting that in relation to the Pleides and Sword of Orion, we see the rabbit/hare. This is most interesting because Orion was said to be the hunter of the hare/rabbit.

The Antelope is believed to have taught human beings to farm. It relates to the Malinke-Bambara tradition that a half-man half-antelope introduced agriculture to mankind.

The Crane is also related to Malinke-Bambara tradition. Among the Bambara the Crested Crane is credited with the birth of speech.

The adult figure on the calabash and the head rest make it clear that this figure represented a Lord of dignitary. Finally the heart shaped or ace of clubs figure probably represents the flani da. The flani da symbolized the One Creator.

This interpretation of the calabash from the Guinea coast suggest that it records some event that involved agriculture. It also suggest that it corresponds to Malinke-Bambara traditions.

The Maya day signs: Lord ,World, snake, deer, and rabbit are found on the sacre calendar of the Maya. As noted above these same signs are found on the Guinea calabash calendar (or almanac ?). We have shown how the signs on the Guinea calabash are explained by Malinke-Bamabara ideology.
The similarity in Mayan and Malinke-Bambara ideology found in the calendrics can best be explained by the fact that the Maya and other Amerind groups got this calendar from the Olmecs, who I have shown spoke Malinke-Bambara. These shared ideology for the figures on the sacre Mayan calendars and the Guinea coast calabash support the view of Leo Wiener in Africa and the Discovery of America that the calendars were related.

Bork in his interpretation of this calabash described the figures different from myself.I don't really disagree with Bork except in the fact that what he calls a buffalo, I identify as an antelope, and the figure, he calls an antelope I recognize as a hare.


I believe this is a hare because it accurately depicts the ears and form of a hare instead of an antelope.


I do not believe the small human figure is a man. I believe it represents a child.What he calls a fetish stool, looks to me to be a head rest.
Also I do not see a bird in the tree/plant so I refer to the figure as a tree.I believe that this calabash may be recording the coronation of a king, or the almanac is discussing someones initiation into a secret society.
Thus the man and child may indicate the role initiation plays in the transformation of the child into a man.

African Buffalo

In summary this calabash confirms the theory of Leo Wiener, that the Mayan sacre calendar was related to calendars in West Africa..

Calabash 3

5- Moon and Venus

4- buffalo head

3-double sword

2- snake


6- fetish stool

8- tree and bird

11- antelope9- butterfly

7- two men

13- crane

12- crossed lizards


Lets compare this calabash to Calabash 2

1- Moon and Venus

2-buffalo head

3-double sword

4-snake staff


6-fetish chair






12-crossed lizards


These two calabashes are clearly derived from the same tradition. They have 10 identical symbols.

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